For the last 11 days, I have been living almost in an altered state of consciousness. It is as if I am “me” and yet “not me.” It is as if I suddenly have hit the realm of being and actualization. Not that this is a finite or static state, but that I am finally operating on a brand new level of self-awareness, one that I have never been on before.
The reason I say that it is “me” and yet it is “not me” is that I suddenly have certain traits and capacities that I’ve never had before. And yet, even when I exhibit these new traits, I know that it is “me” because I am fundamentally the same.
The most striking difference is the liberty with which I live my life. I no longer feel stressed about doing things a certain way, of being on time at all cost, or of keeping my home spick and span, of having my needs met by certain people, or of being irritated or annoyed when schedules and plans are disturbed. I also no longer feel any pressure to respond in certain ways to people for concern of their reactions. This perhaps is the most significant liberation of all for someone like me.
And yet without planning, my days are more fulfilled and packed than ever before in my life. No moment is wasted. Whether it is writing, reading, praying, speaking, thinking, cleaning, travelling, resting, eating or sleeping… every moment is pregnant with presence and serenity.
My husband has been away since Friday – the first overseas work trip since our wedding. I am flying solo these few days but I haven’t felt lonely at all. In fact, though we have hardly spoken 10 mins to each other since he left because either one of us was too busy to call, I have never felt such a deep assurance of his presence with me.
I approach every task with a confidence I never had before – it is almost as if I feel like I know I would not fail. Because I know what tasks I am called to do – I do not try to do things that are not meant for me to do. When I speak, I no longer worry about how persuasive I am or whether I give offense. The words simply come to mind and I speak them plainly and directly. No longer do I engage in argument and rhetoric. It seems I only declare and exposit these days.
I feel God’s presence in a new way – in almost every moment each day. Whether I am waking up, washing the dishes, getting dressed, or just deciding what I am to do next. Mother Mary, whom I used to fear and was anxious about, is ever present when I think of her as well. I have come to love her so dearly, and to trust her so much – more than I ever had in my life. In fact, so often now I feel that I finally experience what the church calls the ‘Communion of Saints’ – that is that every person, past, present and future, are indeed one family – God’s family, and that this unity is not merely abstract, but very real. When I worship at mass now, I have a deep sense that everyone in the congregation is my brother and sister, and my heart reaches out in prayer for them though I do not know who they are.
My heart is filled with love for my family and friends in a way I have never known before. Suddenly they are all so precious and beautiful to me. Suddenly all the things they may have ever done to disappoint or hurt me, or any way in which I used to feel ill at ease with them are just gone. When I shared my testimony and story with Weizhen on Saturday, she said that this was the closest she had felt to me in at least 5 years. It is true that up until recently, I have also felt a growing distance between us. But when I saw her on Saturday – I saw a sister I loved.
I realize that I have died and been reborn in a spiritual sense of the word. In a matter of a week, my old self has died completely, and a new self emerged. This new self is graced with attributes that are not my own. I feel more and more like an empty vessel whose only desire is to store God’s love and truth and to pour them forth whenever and however He decides.
I have let go completely of all my preconceived ideas about God, religion, doctrine and theology. And in doing so, God has infused in me a deeper understanding than I had ever achieved in the past through my own efforts of Himself, my identity as His child, of holy scripture, mass and doctrine. He has filled my heart with a passion for Him that burns brighter than before. He has increased my faith and trust a thousand-fold.
It is not that I am now without fear or worry. At times I still doubt, and even feel a little frightened. But the difference is that there is always a pervading sense of God’s grace surrounding me now such that I can step out in faith in a way the old me could never do.
As I look back in my life, I realize that God has allowed me to start my dying process very early. From my childhood days even, I’ve suffered the pangs of being rejected, misunderstood, maligned and isolated. But I could never not be true to who I felt I was – I never could change myself even though I strove to win affirmation and approval. My last step of dying to self was to face the most painful and shameful event of my past, and to let God heal me of my image of Him and my image of self. This was a burden I had carried for 9 years, and which is now no longer a burden, but a source of strength. I am still in the process of sharing my testimony privately with the people dearest to me. But soon I will be happy to tell my story here.
Anyone who wants to save his life will lose it; but anyone who loses his life for my sake will find it. -Mt 16:25 The understanding of this text has never been so real to me as it is now when I find that I have lost my life out of love for Jesus Christ and have now received a new and more abundant life. I pray that I will cherish this new life and continue to nurture it in God’s holy word and the love of His people.